Hacks, Tips, Tricks, Short Cuts Feed

Garden Hack: Use coffee filters to line container drainage holes

By Mike Thayer

Weed barrier fabric
Don't use this to line your containers with...

Weed barrier fabric, a.k.a., landscaping fabric is a great product, preventing weed growth so your veggies and flowers can thrive.  It's great to line pathways with, keeping your mulch, stone or brick pathway clear of weeds.  Allowing water, air and nutrients to pass through it, weed barrier fabric also has another great use - you can line the inside bottom of your containers with it, allowing for drainage without losing soil through the hole(s). 

Starting at $12 for a small roll of thinner, lower quality fabric, you can pay up to $200 for the premium stuff, which is thicker, made of better material and comes in a bigger roll.

Coffee Filters
Use coffee filters instead!

But I say, don't even pay the $12 for the cheap roll if you're a container gardener, besides, there's way too much cutting involved to 'customize' the fabric to fit your container size.  Weed barrier fabric is good stuff, but coffee filters do the very same job and WAY cheaper!

Like the weed fabric, coffee filters allow for drainage at the bottom of your pot, without losing soil through the hole.  You just need one filter for larger pots, and you can get away with halving and quartering coffee filters down to size for smaller pots.  Here's the best part, you can get a package of coffee filters on the cheap!  A package of 100 filters cost me $1 at Dollar Tree.  That's enough "fabric" to do more than 100 pots! 

Get the weed barrier fabric for large jobs, use coffee filters for your containers!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Meal prepping without a meal plan

By Mike Thayer

Roasted Red PeppersChop, chop, chop!

Some people like to plan their menus, to include yours truly, but a lot of people aren't really into doing that.  No harm, no foul and eating on a whim can be fun!  But eating on whim can also be disappointing and it often begs questions like, "What do I want to eat?" or worse yet, "What is there to eat?"

Avoid the - what sounds good? - mindset and do a bit of meal prepping, not for a particular meal or set of meals, but 'mini-prep' if you will, so that when you do decide to cook, it will make putting that meal together a whole lot easier and faster.  Take advantage of foods you already have on hand, but are about to expire and take advantage of your freezer. 

When I've got a bag of carrots in the fridge coming close to an expiration date for example, I will slice, dice, roast, saute and FREEZE.  This extends the expiration date, I avoid the throwing away spoiled food thing and when I'm cooking a meal down the road that calls for carrots or I just need a quick side dish, I've got it at the ready in the freezer in various forms.

If you've got some canned chic peas about to expire, make some hummus, enjoy some, throw the rest of the batch in the freezer.  TIP, rotate your canned goods, always keep cans with the farthest out date in the back of the pantry or cabinet.  Don't just stack cans you just bought at the grocery store on top of the ones collecting dust, rotate those cans!

Did you buy too much of an ingredient for a meal or for a party?  Slice it, dice it, cook it, whatever, FREEZE it. 

Peppers are something I tend to over-buy, but they freeze well in raw form and can be used in a variety of dishes.  Freezing will change the texture of a lot of veggies, keep that in mind, because if you like snacking on a sliced pepper for example, don't slice peppers up thinking you'll have a great but simple snack to pull out of the freezer down the road.  It won't be the same fresh, crisp bite you enjoyed when first bringing those peppers home from the grocery store.  The peppers will however deliver some excellent flavor in soups, stews and here's a great one:  Roast those red peppers, put them together with those chic peas in a food processor for some roasted red pepper hummus.  It's another dose of YUM!

Leftover rice?  Throw it in a container with a protein like shredded chicken or diced ham and you've got a convenient, impromptu meal you can pull from the freezer.  Leftover taters?  Same thing, throw it in a container with a protein to create a base for a convenient, impromptu meal.  Pairing a carb with a protein and stashing it in the freezer goes a long way towards helping you quickly decide what to eat later on and is a time saver.  Bonus, having a stash of ready to go ingredients in the freezer is healthier for you than processed foods.

Got some berries that are going to go bad soon?  You could make a pie, but if you're not really into baking, say hello to ice cream!  I'm into simple desserts and some ice cream topped with warmed up blueberries or strawberries is super easy to put together, satisfying and most importantly, tasty.  Most fruits freeze well in raw form and you can keep things like berries in single serving containers too, ideal for snacking or portioning.

Avoid food spoilage, slice, dice, roast, bake, grill, etc., and FREEZE!  Extend the life of your food and easily create quite a bit of variety by making smart use of your freezer.  You'll save time, money and another BONUS - no more "What is there to eat?" anxiety.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


Related:  Plan your menus

Bachelor on the Cheap Tip: Keep ice on hand

By Mike Thayer

IceSo you're having a party, you think you've got it all covered with everything you need.....  And then it hits you - NOT ENOUGH ICE!  And your ice maker, if you have one, can't keep up with demand......


You've GOT to have ice for those drinks, right?  And then there's the ice needed to keep foods on the party buffet trays chilled.....

ALWAYS keep a bag of ice (if not two) in the freezer.  It doesn't matter if it's store bought, or something you broke ice for and filled some Ziplocks or plastic grocery store bags with.  Keeping a bag or two of ice in the freezer means being prepared for a party, planned or impromptu.  It can mean not having to stop somewhere to get ice for the cooler for a fishing and/or other kind of road trip.   And hey, cracking your own ice saves a few bucks.  Some convenience stores charge way too much money for a frick'n bag of ice.  Save yourself the impromptu bag of ice price gouge.

And here's the bonus.  When there's that power outage - and that WILL happen - having that stash of ice in the freezer will help keep your frozen foods in good shape during the outage, extending the number of hours your freezer can safely hold food before it starts to suffer, leading to spoilage.  General rule of thumb, a full freezer can go about 48 hours, a freezer half full is good for about 24 hours, that is, provided you don't open it up!

Always have extra ice on hand.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....


'Pulled' Pork Hack

By Mike Thayer

Here's a nice little hack for making some really great 'Pulled' (shredded really) Pork done in the crock pot.

Margarita MixMargarita Mix

Talk about some flavorful, oh-so-tender and juicy pork!   And this recipe is versatile.  You can go classic BBQ, Mexican or even Asian cuisine with this recipe/shortcut/hack.


  • 2 pounds of pork loin
  • Your favorite dry rub
  • Two cups of Margarita mix


Rub that pork loin with your favorite dry rub, if you don't have one, Kosher salt and black pepper will do just fine.  Place in a zip lock bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.  After that pork loin has gotten all happy in the fridge, place it in the crock pot, pour in the Margarita mix and cook it on the high setting for 5-1/2 hours.  Shred in a large bowl or tray/dish and serve.

Crock Pot "Pulled" Pork

Serving suggestions:

  • Mix with BBQ sauce when shredding, serve on a toasted bun with coleslaw
  • Skip the BBQ sauce and create some shredded pork tacos, serving on a flour tortilla with all the traditional taco toppings and salsa
  • Stir fry some vegetables creating some sweet and sour pork (the liquid in the crock pot makes a great base for the sauce) or break out the rice and Soy for pork fried rice.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....



Wive's Tales & Home Remedies - How Effective Are They?

By Mike Thayer

AppleDoes an apple a day really keep the doctor away?  Does mixing rubbing alcohol and water to make a de-icer really work? 

Here are a few that I know first hand to be tried and true.  Let's start off with a classic, eating those apples....

Wives Tale: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  There have been a number of studies done on this and apples do indeed have many health benefits, from being heart healthy to improving your immune system.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather eat an apple than visit the doctor.

And with apples in mind....

Home Remedy: After a night of hard drinking, try easing your hangover pain with a shot of apple cider vinegar.  Alcohol messes with your blood sugar and your stomach.  The apple cider vinegar helps to offset what the alcohol messed up, getting your blood sugar back in balance and soothing your stomach.  If you don't want to drink it straight, dilute it with some water.  Of course, we all know that the only true cure for a hangover, is to not over-do the adult beverages in the first place... 

Wives TaleCount sheep to fall asleep.  No, you don't have to actually count sheep, but the act of counting something and the use of mental imagery can certainly assist in getting you to fall asleep faster.  It works because it distracts you from thinking of stressful or worrisome thoughts. 

Home Remedy:  Using baking soda and vinegar to unclog drains does indeed work.  So much more cost effective than buying a bottle of Drano or Liquid Plumber, it works just as well and you're not pouring a bunch of toxic chemicals down the pipe.  If you've got a slow drain, unclog it using the following steps:

  • Pour a pot of hot water down the drain, this helps loosen up that sludge or clog buildup.
  • Just before all the hot water is completely drained away, put a heaping 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain.  You want to get that stuff into the pipe, not just sitting on top of the drain and that remaining very hot water helps to do that. 
  • Once all the baking soda gets below the drain, pour in 1 cup vinegar followed immediately by 1 cup of very hot water down that drain. 
  • Once the sink is completely drained, flush the drain with another pot of boiling water.  You may have to repeat this whole process again for tougher clogs.

Wives Tale: When you have a cold, eat chicken soup.  No, chicken soup won't help cure your cold, it's going to run its course, but the chicken soup  does actually help relieve the symptoms of your cold.  Studies show that chicken soup helps clear nasal congestion, breaks up mucus so you can cough it up better and the soup classic also has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help ease other cold symptoms like a sore throat. 

Home Remedy:  If you're feeling nauseous, don't reach for the stomach medicine, eat some ginger or drink some ginger tea instead!  Studies show ginger to be very effective at relieving nausea and even preventing vomiting.  And if eating ginger or whipping something up with ginger in it doesn't appeal to you, there are a lot of ginger supplements on the market today.

Wives Tale: Use oats to help sooth bug bites.  Yes, it really works!  Just mix oatmeal with enough water to create a thick paste and slather it on those mosquito bites.  It will reduce the inflammation and more importantly, the itch - it's the antioxidants in the oats that does it.  If you don't want to walk around with that concoction on your arm (or elsewhere on the bod), go to the drugstore and get a moisturizer or skin lotion that lists oatmeal as a main ingredient. 

Home Remedy:  Have a nagging cough?  Grab the honey, which studies have shown to be just as effective as any of those expensive off-the-shelf cough suppressants.   Honey tastes better and what it does is coat your throat and sooth irritation, just like dextromethorphan  - the main ingredient in that off-the-shelf stuff - is designed to do.  

Wives Tale: Fish is brain food.  Stock up on salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, cod and other kinds of fish rich in omega 3- and omega-6 essential fatty acids because science does show that eating fish aids in brain growth and development.  In fact, a  lot of research of these omegas has gone into the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.  Omegas also have anti-inflammatory properties that  help to reduce joint stiffness and prevent heart disease. 

Home RemedyRubbing alcohol and water makes a de-icer. This isn't quite as quick as the commercial stuff, but it does indeed work and it's A LOT cheaper!

  • 2 parts rubbing alcohol
  • 1 part water

Pour the alcohol and water into a spray bottle. Spray on the windshield or other surface and let it work for about 1-5 minutes (depending on how thick the ice is).  A second application may be necessary.  Scraping ice off the windshield or opening up the lock on the door becomes easy peasy.

I can attest to all the effectiveness of all these wives tales and home remedies.  I've tried them because they're Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly and I use them because they work.

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Protecting your grill with a grill cover - GrillingGoodEats.com

By Mike Thayer

I'm a regular reader of smoking, grilling, bbq blogs and websites and lately I've come across some debate on whether or not you should cover your grill with a grill cover.

"Grill covers trap moisture and that can lead to mold," say some....

"Your grill will rust if you cover it, covers get wet in the rain and stay wet long after the rain stops" say others...

Both of those lines are complete horse manure, put out there by some grillers who just aren't thinking things through.

There is no debate, without question, grill covers prolong the life of your grill, helping to keep it clean, dry and the finish looking good.

Let's go back to that first anti-cover argument, "Grill covers trap moisture and that can lead to mold."


20190102_114216-1(1)I'm not eating anything the guy with the mold issue grills up, he's not properly maintaining his grill, let alone his grill cover.    Ashes need to be removed from the grill, grates cleaned, excess grit/grime removed, surfaces wiped down.   There is no way for any kind of mold to develop if your grill is properly maintained.  And the best thing you can do when it comes to grill covers is to apply a silicone water-guard and letting that dry before putting it into use.  Most grill covers of any quality when new, repel water.  But the sun and weather conditions will eventually wear that protection down.  Spraying that new cover right out of the box or bag with some silicone will greatly enhance the cover's ability to repel water.  A properly maintained cover REPELS water, it doesn't "trap" it.  Whoever thinks covers trap moisture, doesn't know how to properly maintain and use a grill cover, let alone store their grill when not in use.  If you've got a cover that stays wet long after a rain, or if you pull off a cover and your grill is wet, then your cover either needs to be sprayed with silicone or your cover is at the point in its life of service where it just needs to be replaced.   If it's got a hole or a rip, guess what?  No, it's NOT time for duct tape, it's time for a new grill cover.

And now for that second anti-cover comment:  "Your grill will rust if you cover it, covers get wet in the rain and stay wet long after the rain stops."

20190102_114345That's just a flat out myth!  It's the same thing as for the mold argument, no properly maintained grill is going to prematurely develop rust from the use of a good grill cover.  That rust claim is just absurd!  To repeat:  A properly maintained cover REPELS water, it doesn't "trap" it.   A clean grill is a happy grill and a silicone sprayed grill cover is a dry cover.  An UNCOVERED grill is going to rust out LONG before a properly maintained and properly covered grill ever will!

You see folks, using a grill cover is kind of like using a condom.  If you don't want your lady to get pregnant, you wear a condom.  If you don't want your grill to get dirty, dusty, the paint faded or scratched, get hit with bird droppings and the like, you put a cover on it!   Don't buy into the mold or rust nonsense - put a cover on it!   Hey, there's a name for a cover right?  The Grill Condom.....  OK, maybe not...

For more grilling tips, ideas and great recipes, go to www.grillinggoodeats.com

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Sandwich baskets great for more than just sandwiches

By Mike Thayer

I hate doing dishes, even with a dishwasher available.  If there's a way to avoid doing dishes, even if it's simply rinsing off some plates and silverware and throwing them in the dishwasher, I'd just rather not.

20181228_084941Enter, Sandwich Baskets.

Whoever invented these things was a genius, I LOVE these things!  I have four sandwich baskets sitting on top of my refrigerator at the ready, for whatever....  Able to hold a huge sandwich and a generous portion of fries, they're good for so much more. They're great for holding just about any kind of snack, no fuss, no mess...  Chips, popcorn, pretzels, nuts.  When you're done, just throw the parchment paper away, rinse off the basket and let dry for the next meal or snack.  They're not just for one person to use either.  Task the baskets to serve bread sticks or garlic bread, family style at the dinner table.  For a big Sunday family breakfast, serve bacon in a basket rather than dirtying up a plate.  They're space savers when it comes to storage (easily stackable), convenient to use, easy to wash, they're sturdier than paper plates and the best part, they're inexpensive. 

20181228_090532I picked up four baskets at Dollar Tree for $2 (two sets of two at $1 each).  That's Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly and these baskets will last me a very long time.  I'll get multiple uses for serving up a vast variety of foods.  Just about any kind of finger food can go in a basket, chicken nuggets, tacos, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce....  Don't want bar food fare?  Slice up some fruit or toss in some veggies and dip, there's just so much you can serve in a basket.

Use them indoors, outdoors, get some for yourself, family use, parties, the backyard BBQ, picnics, casual holiday gatherings...

Pictured right, two bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sliders and hash browns....  It was another dose of YUM and super easy clean up!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....





Cooking oils, dressings, sauces and squeeze jars

By Mike Thayer

It's not an original idea, but it is a great one...

Put cooking oils, salad dressings and sauces - things you use frequently - in squeeze bottles.

There is a reason the makers of ketchup and mustard started putting their products in customized plastic squeeze bottles in addition to traditional glass bottles and jars decades ago.  A squeeze bottle is convenient.  You get the perfect serving portion to your liking.  And not only is it a faster way to put ketchup or mustard on a sandwich, hot dog or burger, it's less of a mess too.  There's no need to pull out a knife to spread mustard around, there's no slow wait for ketchup to come out of a bottle.

While that way back commercial was humorous, nobody likes to wait for the ketchup to come out of the bottle.  For us older folks, remember those impatient ones at the diner who thumped the bottom of the bottle which often resulted in ketchup going somewhere they didn't want it too, or getting a mountain of ketchup on that burger rather than the small dollop they wanted?  Then there was the other guy who would stick a knife down the bottle to retrieve the ketchup, making a huge mess, ketchup running down the length of the knife and the guy having to ask the waitress for extra napkins?  Where you one of those guys?

20181211_184209-1With those diners and restaurants in mind, it didn't take them long to pick up that squeeze bottle concept ball and run with it in their kitchens.  They started taking their cooking oils, dressings and secret sauces out of their original bottles, containers and mixing bowls and putting them in much easier to use, squeeze bottles.  Food manufacturers too, found the squeeze bottle to be a better vessel for packaging and marketing their products and why these days, you now see so many items like BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, Sriracha and heck, even pickle relish in customized squeeze bottles.

So why shouldn't us bachelors, do the same for our favorites in our kitchens?  Put olive oil, canola oil, Ranch dressing, home made Arby's sauce, an impromptu aioli, in squeeze bottles. That's what I've got in squeeze bottles at my place, always at the ready.  I focus on items I use often and I usually buy things in bulk like Ranch dressing for example, so squeeze bottles only make sense.  I've got my cooking oils conveniently staged near the stove, I've got dressings, sauces and aiolis requiring refrigeration stashed in the door shelf of the fridge.  The use of squeeze bottles makes everything easier, from food prep to plating.  It's convenient, it's faster, it's precise portion control, it's smarter storage (no mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap), it's virtually no mess......  unless you've got really bad aim.....

Squeeze bottles rock!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....

Copy Cat Arby's Sauce

By Mike Thayer

Arby's SauceMost every bachelor has those leftover condiment packets in his fridge, one I always seem to have on hand lately is Arby's Sauce, which is fantastic on roast beef sandwiches, steak sandwiches, a change of pace from regular ketchup on burgers and so much more!  I like to slather that sauce on my sandwich, but one of those packets is never enough....  So why not make a big batch of my own "Arby's Sauce" and put it in a squeeze bottle, right?


  • 1 heaping cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine (optional, no the real Arby's sauce doesn't have wine in it, but this is a nice add)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat up a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and heat until boiling, stirring often.  Reduce to simmer and let all those flavors marry for about 5 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and cool.  Store in a squeeze bottle in the fridge, it's good for about two weeks.  Now you have your own batch of Arby's Sauce, it's another dose of YUM!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....



Easy Peasy way to keep the top of your refrigerator clean and BONUS - looking nice

By Mike Thayer

The top of the refrigerator.... 

That space is used for SO many things, unless of course, you've got cabinets covering the whole top.

Some people put boxes of cereal on top of the fridge.  Other folks store boxes of whatever kitchen related stuff they bought but don't have space for it in a cabinet or closet.  Some people put common everyday cups or dishes on top, I fit in this category, it's where I keep my burger/sandwich baskets. 

20181129_101310Here's the thing.  The top of the refrigerator tends to collect a lot of dust, and yuck, grease if you enjoy a lot of fried food.  The top of the fridge can get kind of nasty but it's also not something you think about cleaning often, like wiping down a counter-top because you use it to prep meals, pack a lunch or break out the storage containers to put leftovers away, everyday.  The top of the refrigerator is a second thought, out-of-the-way, high up....  Sure, you might grab that box of cereal from the top of the fridge often enough, but you don't think about cleaning it like you would a counter or a stove top that gets everyday use.

Enter, the runner.

Putting a decorative table runner for example on the top of your fridge helps to keep it clean, reducing the amount of dust and yuck, layer of fried food grease buildup that can accumulate over time.  A runner, or a curtain valance in my case, greatly reduces the refrigerator surface area where dust and grease buildup can accumulate. All you have to do every once in awhile is toss that runner in the laundry and wipe down a much smaller surface area that the runner didn't cover, making for much easier cleaning and maintenance.  And the bonus is you can make it a no-brainer decorative thing, matching the theme of your kitchen and/or paint color with a simple piece of cloth.   I've got a sunflower, yellows and greens color scheme working in my kitchen, so I just picked up an extra valance for the top of my fridge to match my kitchen window curtains.  For less than $10, you can keep the top of your fridge clean and decorate at the same time!

$pend Wisely My Friends.....